Insight Neurosurgery – March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, an annual time dedicated to educating the community about brain and head injuries, sharing prevention tips, and raising awareness on why you should see a doctor if an injury has occurred. Brain injuries are one of the most common causes of disability and death in the United States. Consider these statistics from the CDC: a brain injury occurs about once every nine seconds in the U.S., at least 1.5 million Americans will experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year, and more than 50,000 of those injuries result in death. That’s over 130 TBI-related deaths each day. Although some groups are at higher risk, such as adults over 65 and athletes, people of all ages and backgrounds could experience a brain injury at any time. Some of the most mundane activities like walking or driving are leading causes of TBIs each year. Fortunately, there are some simple steps we all can take to protect our brains, as well as tips to identify brain damage symptoms in adults so you know when to seek treatment.
How to Identify Brain Damage Symptoms in Adults
Depending on the cause, a brain injury can be either traumatic or nontraumatic. A nontraumatic brain injury is still serious, but is usually not caused by an external force to the head and only results in temporary symptoms. A traumatic brain injury (TBI), however, occurs when the head experiences a significant bump, blow, or jolt that leads to concussions, memory loss, and certain neurological symptoms. The causes of brain injuries are wide-ranging, with the most common being car accidents, slips/falls, sports or work injuries, and assaults or domestic violence. Symptoms of brain injuries vary depending on the severity of the injury. Some signs of traumatic and nontraumatic brain injuries include:
- Changes in behavior or mood
- Confusion or memory problems
- Convulsions or seizures
- Dizziness or blurred vision
- Excessive sleepiness or no energy
- Headache or neck pain that does not go away
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Slurred speech
If you or someone you know suffers a head injury and experiences any of these symptoms, you should always seek immediate medical attention or dial 911.
5 Tips for Preventing Brain Injuries
Be a Safer Driver
Automobile accidents are one of the top causes of hospitalization for TBI. The easiest way to protect yourself and prevent a motor vehicle-related brain injury is to always wear a seat belt. Seat belts keep you and your occupants from being thrown inside the cabin or ejected from the vehicle in a collision. They also keep you in place so the car’s airbags can deploy effectively and protect you from the impact of a collision. It is also important to avoid distractions like eating or using a cell phone while driving. According to recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is the leading cause of vehicle crashes in the U.S., with most of the distractions stemming from texting. Alcohol, drug, and prescription medication use is another significant cause of car accidents. Always refrain from driving if you have been drinking or using drugs and help others do the same.
Wear a Helmet
Although there is no concussion-proof helmet, wearing the right one for the right activity is the best way you can protect your head and prevent serious brain injuries. According to data from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by at least 45 percent, brain injury by 33 percent, facial injury by 27 percent, and fatal injury by 29 percent. When should you wear a helmet? Any time you ride a bicycle, motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle, or horse. Helmets should also be used while roller skating, skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, and playing contact or batting sports.
Practice Sports Safety
Playing sports is an excellent way to stay physically active and is a very rewarding activity for people of all ages. Unfortunately, sports like football, hockey, and baseball/softball put athletes at greater risk for head injuries. To protect yourself and prevent a serious brain injury, athletes should always wear the proper protective equipment for their sport, ensuring it fits correctly and is in good condition. Athletes should always follow the rules of the game and use safe playing techniques to keep themselves and others safe. Every athlete should also know the signs and symptoms of a brain injury. If a blow to the head does occur, stop playing and do not return until being cleared by a doctor.
Prevent Falls at Home
Falls are another common cause of TBI and older adults are at highest risk. According to the CDC, one in four adults over age 65 report falling each year and about 32,000 falls result in death. However, there are many preventative steps seniors can take to make their homes safe from slip and fall hazards. Routinely take time to assess your home for trip hazards like rugs and clutter. Also install non-slip mats in showers and bathtubs to avoid falling. Other tips include installing adequate railings (near bathtubs, toilets, and stairways) and lighting throughout your home, as well as keeping outdoor walkways clear of ice and snow.
Improve Balance & Strength By Staying Active
If you are an older adult or have a certain medical condition that increases your risk of falling and hitting your head, staying active is a great way to improve your strength, balance, and mobility. Walking, swimming, and yoga are all recommended to improve balance and flexibility. Simple exercises like toe stands, knee curls, leg extensions, and stretching will also make it easier for you to move around and build endurance. The CDC recommends older adults should get about 2.5 hours of exercise a week, dedicating two days to activities that strengthen muscles. However, it is important to remember that some physical activity is better than none at all. Always exercise at your own pace and discuss your goals or concerns with your doctor. The National Institute on Aging also has many resources for getting started and setting fitness goals.
If ignored or left untreated, brain injuries can lead to a number of long-lasting or permanent complications. This is why it is critical to understand the signs and symptoms of brain injuries and take simple steps now to prevent them from happening. Whether you are an athlete or an older adult, Brain Injury Awareness Month is an excellent reminder to never underestimate the impact of a concussion and the symptoms related to brain injuries. For more information about brain injuries and our services at Insight Neurosurgery, contact us today to schedule an appointment.
Q: Do all head injuries require medical attention?
A: Not every bump on the head requires a trip to the emergency room. However, you should always seek immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms such as headaches, memory loss, and confusion.
Q: How long does it take to recover from a brain injury?
A: Every brain injury and patient is different. Most people recover from mild brain injuries within a few months or sooner. However, moderate to severe brain injuries may take a few years or longer and full brain function recovery in some cases may be uncertain.
Q: How can parents prevent brain injuries in children?
A: Similar to the steps adults can take to prevent brain injuries, children should always use a seatbelt or car seat and wear a helmet when riding bikes or playing sports. Falls can also be prevented at home by installing safety devices on stairs and windows.